In the forty five years the Mets played at Shea, some of the greatest ever have performed on the field. True legends have appeared on the green grass of our home. No, I’m not talking Tom Seaver, Sandy Koufax or Henry Aaron. I’m referring to some of the biggest names in the history of Rock and Roll. From 1965 through 2008, a wide variety of musical icons played before tens of thousands of fans. Everyone from The Beatles, The Stones, The Who and Janis Joplin to CCR, The Clash, Simon & Garfunkel and Bruce Springsteen have played live. What The Beatles began in August 65 ended with Billy Joel’s ‘Last Play at Shea’ in July 2008.
Interestingly, one of Billy’s most popular songs was recorded back in 1982, but yet I find it very apropos of the Mets current status in 2009. The song is called Pressure.
Seldom in our team’s existence have the Mets started a season the clear cut favorite. And never in our existence have we confronted a more daunting task than the one facing us now. After the coll…coll…collap….I cant say it again. After what happened the last 2 Septembers, we have an uphill battle before us. When mid-September 09 rolls around, if we happen to be in the midst of a heated pennant race with the Phillies or with another team for the wildcard spot, fans from coast to coast will be watching closely, expecting us to coll…collap…Um, not win.
The Mets, as a team, have a huge amount of pressure this year. But also, many individuals as well will be scrutinized and watched closely. Carlos Delgado will be facing the pressure of turning 37 but we need him to have one more solid season. Luis Castillo will be playing under the persistent threat of a shower of boos. Safe to say, if he starts slow or goes into a slump early, a torrential downpour of boos will rain down on the 2bman. Even our ace has the pressure to pitch like an ace every single time he takes the mound. There’s a big drop-off between Johan and our #2. Mike Pelfrey will have to face the pressure of a Sophomore jinx. Newly acquired Francisco Rodriguez will also be feeling the pressure. He was our one and only big signing this winter and he shoulders the responsibility of being a solid closer. JJ Putz also must face the pressure of a big market as well as being an effective set-up man. He steps into the biggest hole of last season. Ryan Church was solid early last year, but now faces the pressure of staying healthy and putting up good numbers. Jose Reyes, as always, has to face the pressure of being our spark plug, our table setter. As Reyes goes, so go the Mets. The pressure also extends off the playing field. Jerry Manuel will be at the helm from Opening Day, not stepping in in mid-season. And upstairs, Omar Minaya will face the pressure of the NY media and second guessing fans. If the Mets falter, if the bullpen fails, Omar will most definitely be attacked for not doing enough this winter.
I am curious to know who our readers feel will be facing the most pressure this season.
I would like to go out on a limb and pick someone who has an equally high amount of pressure on him this year. David Wright. On the surface, it seems silly to say that #5 has pressure on him. But I feel that, perhaps, he has more than the others I mentioned.
In his rookie year of 2004, David proved himself worthy of playing in the majors. In 05, he proved himself immune to a sophomore jinx. In 06, he took it one step further and proved to America he was worthy of being on the All-Star team. David has continued to dominate. Although he may not have asked for it, he has become the face of the Mets. What Seaver and Koosman meant to the Mets in the 60s and 70s and what Doc and Keith and Gary meant to the Mets of the 80s, has now fallen onto David Wright. In just 4 ½ seasons, Wright is already amongst the leaders in many offensive categories in our history. Asked for or not, he faces the pressure of carrying us to the Promised Land. He is the face, the symbol and the future of the Mets. In the final game of last year, we lost to Florida, 4-2. Many grumbled about the fact that David had gone 0-for-4. Suddenly, the fact that he went hitless in that last game overshadowed the 33 HR’s and 124 RBI’s he compiled for the previous 159 games he played in.
Maybe it’s due to his natural gifts, his talent, his movie star good looks, his demeanor with fans and reporters or his ‘good guy’ approach. Whatever the reason, David Wright has emerged as the heart and soul of the Mets and in that role, he has that much more pressure.
As Billy Joel himself sang in 1982, the year Wright was born, Here you are in the 9th. 2 men out and 3 men on. Nowhere to look but inside. Where we all respond to. Pressure.